Govt must protect migrants

2010-05-28 08:10

Johannesburg - The government must do more to protect African migrants from persistent xenophobic violence, Amnesty International said on Thursday, as the nation prepares to host the Soccer World Cup.

The human rights group said it had documented more attacks against African migrants, two years after a wave of anti-foreigner violence left 62 people dead and nearly 100 000 displaced.

Africa programme director of Amnesty International, Erwin van der Borght, said: "There's still documented, on a regular basis, violence among communities often targeted against foreigners.

Scarce resources

"The attacks are often related to protests against lack of basic services and competing against scarce resources and these result in loss of life and destruction of property."

Liberal immigration and refugee policies make South Africa an attractive destination for Africans lured by work in mines, farms and homes.

The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa), a group of human rights and migrant organisations including Amnesty International, said earlier this month that African migrants feared a flare-up of xenophobic violence after the month-long World Cup, which starts on June 11.

Amnesty said President Jacob Zuma's government had to ensure security forces could protect other Africans living in South Africa.

"We're also, with the upcoming World Cup, appealing to the government to not only obviously protect the situation around the World Cup but also make sure there are resources available to continue to be able to provide protection and security for people living in these communities," Van Der Borght said.


Another outbreak of unrest could harm investor sentiment and embarrass Zuma's government, after the country became the first in Africa to host the World Cup.

There are no precise figures on the total number of African immigrants in South Africa. The South African Institute of Race Relations estimates the figure at five million - equivalent to the country's white population.

About three million Zimbabweans alone have fled economic collapse in that country to South Africa, the continent's biggest economy, in the past decade.

The influx of other Africans has led to competition for jobs, housing and resources.

A quarter of the South African workforce is unemployed and 16 years after apartheid ended, millions of poor blacks are yet to receive housing, water, electricity and the improved education they had expected would come with a black government.

This has led to violent countrywide protests in shack settlements and poor townships where residents are furious at the government's inability to deliver basic services.